ROCKINGHAM — Five thousand yellow rubber ducks made their way down a portion of Hitchcock Creek Sunday afternoon for the second annual Duck Derby benefiting Sandhills Children’s Center.
Spectators lined the creek banks and bridges to watch the race.
As the bathtub toys floated toward the greenway’s first bridge, the lead duck veered off to the left into calmer waters.
Those that weren’t far behind stayed with the current and floated under the bridge toward the finish line.
An orange safety net spanned the width of the creek to keep the ducks from floating downstream toward the Pee Dee River — as some did last year after escaping the clutches of the catchers.
The spacing of the ducks as they reached the end of the race made it “very clear” who the winners were, said Melanie Carnes, director of center services for the Rockingham campus of Sandhills Children’s Center.
Coming in at first place, the Griffin Toyota Super Duck was fostered by Buzz Parker, who won $1,500.
Ed and Kari Ross had the Lucky Duck second-place winner, receiving $500 from Camina Design and Construction. They also won a Discovery Place Kids gift bag for fostering the seventh-place duck.
Rounding out the top three was John Mullen, who won two one-day passes to Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock.
Gift certificates from several local businesses were given to those who fostered the top 56 ducks.
Many ducks never made it to the finish line, getting caught on roots and rocks along the way.
“It was a great day,” Carnes said after the stragglers had been caught. “I think everybody enjoyed it.”
She was impressed by the turnout and said she thought there were more people at the event than last year.
“It’s as much about raising awareness for what we do as it is raising money,” she said.
The nonprofit center has two campuses, one in Rockingham and another in Southern Pines, and provides educational and therapeutic services for kids up to 5 years old, both with and without disabilities. It is a United Way partnering agency and receives funding from the Richmond County Partnership for Children. The Rockingham campus serves 110 students.
Prior to the main race was the children’s race, where a bucket of $10 ducks — which the kids got to keep — were dumped over the side of the bridge.
Four-year-old Payton Pope from Rockingham had the winner and was the recipient of tickets to Carowinds in Charlotte.
Between the races, a family of kayakers paddled down the creek, surprised at the crowd that had gathered.
Corey and Brandy Wyand said they had no idea the derby was taking place, after the couple and their kids pulled their kayaks out of the water.
Aside from the races, there were other activities including: a dunking booth from Richmond County Hospice; face-painting from Beaver Dam United Methodist Church; several tossing games from the Rolling Sandhills Civitan Club; temporary tattoos from Girl Scout Troop 80; and hands-on activities from Discovery Place Kids.
Carnes said the total amount raised should be known by next week.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.